For the second year in a row, nearly every U.S. Mennonite college and university reported lower overall enrollment. Still, higher education institutions and seminaries find reason to be hopeful.
Full-time and part-time students at Mennonite Church USA and U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches colleges, universities and seminaries number 8,861 this fall, down 3 percent from 9,139 a year ago.
After sinking last year to 444 students after a recent high of 525 in 2015, Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., rose to 456. Total enrollment includes a new undergraduate headcount of 201, which is up 32 percent.
“I am especially proud of our coaches and our admissions team for bringing in such a great group of students,” said Andy Johnson, vice president for admissions, in a joint release from Mennonite Church USA institutions.
Hesston (Kan.) College’s enrollment decreased 8 percent from 420 students a year ago to 386. The first-year class counts eight more students than last year’s.
President Joseph A. Manickam said the traditionally two-year college is responding with expanded academic programs.
“Enrollment in our bachelor’s degree programs of aviation and nursing are strong, and as we retain those students and add others in pending four-year degree options, we anticipate that we’ll see positive growth moving forward,” he said.
Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., has nearly 70 fewer students than last fall, with 1,484. Director of admissions Matthew Ruth noted the incoming class of 242 is larger than the past couple of years, including 230 last year.
Goshen (Ind.) College enrollment fell by 20 to 907, which is still higher than the 839 students enrolled four years ago.
“This fall, we welcomed the highest number of transfer students (64) to Goshen College since 2005 and saw strong retention of our current students,” said Dominique Burgunder-Johnson, vice president for marketing and enrollment.
Bluffton (Ohio) University halted several years of relatively steep decreases with only two fewer students than a year ago. There are 768 total students, but recruitment trends are looking up with new students up dramatically from 193 last year to 250 this year.
“Bluffton is thrilled to enroll our largest class in six years and to have the largest number of international students on campus since 2003,” said Robin Bowlus, vice president for enrollment management and marketing.
Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., has slightly lower enrollment, down by three students to 112.
The incoming class of 28 graduate students tops last year’s incoming class of 23 students. The number of nondegree students in the two-and-a-half year Journey Missional Leadership Development Program rose from 17 to 24.
“We’ve also experienced continued growth in the number of international students studying with us on campus and at a distance, with 25 percent of our graduate student body and 29 percent of our Journey participants coming from outside of the U.S. and Canada,” said Daniel Grimes, vice president for advancement and enrollment.
Enrollment dropped by about 9 percent for a second year in a row at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan. Now counting 639 total students, the college set a record two years ago with 770.
Several faculty and staff members were let go earlier this year to reduce payroll by more than $500,000 after expenses exceeded revenue the past two years, prompting the college to use reserves and borrow to cover operations.
In an Aug. 29 email to alumni and supporters, President Jules Glanzer said he anticipated this would be a rebuilding year.
“We believe that with the budget adjustments made last year, combined with continued success with the TaborNOW! Campaign, an increased focus on better retention from fall to spring and recruiting additional transfers to come to Tabor for the spring semester, we do not plan to make any budget cuts,” he wrote.
After a record 4,212 students enrolled last year, Fresno (Calif.) Pacific University has 4,109 students this fall. This is the third year in a row FPU has topped 4,000 and ahead of the average of the previous five years, which is 3,813.
FPU enrolled more transfer students in traditional undergraduate programs this year. It has been making efforts to smooth the transfer process with nearby community colleges.
Drops in enrollment came among freshmen, international students, athletes, graduate students and traditional undergraduates. Bachelor’s degree completion participants are up slightly, from 1,808 students last year to 1,843 this year.